Filled with raw power, this may be the darkest thriller of the year.

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LIVIA LONE

An explosive thriller that plunges into the sewer of human smuggling.

Billy Barnett picks up Livia Lone in a bar, figuring her for an easy, like-it-or-not lay. But she’s set up this known predator and kills him. She is a Seattle sex-crimes cop who secretly murders scum the legal system hasn’t sufficiently punished. “She respected the system…and if the system didn’t get them [victims] justice, she would get them justice another way.” After this brisk opening, we plunge into Livia's back story. In Thailand her parents sell 13-year-old Labee and her 11-year-old sister, Nason, who become separated on arriving in the U.S. in a shipping container. Labee is adopted and renamed Livia, becoming the sex slave of prominent businessman Fred Lone. At school she befriends Sean, who stutters and capably defends himself against bullies. Their friendship leads to her learning jujitsu and judo, skills that come to help define her, end her abuse, and end many men’s lives. One scene, not unique, goes from “he was between her naked legs” to “His eyes rolled up, his tongue flopped loose, and his body went limp on top of her.” And she’s plenty smart enough to keep her name out of any investigations and not leave any traceable patterns. Livia determines that “she was never going to be ruled by fear again.” As an adult she becomes a cop in a Seattle PD sex crimes unit so she can hunt monsters who sexually abuse children “and put them in prison forever. Or else put them in the ground.” Over the years she never stops trying to find out what happened to Nason, an insatiable desire that’s a driving force in the plot. Eisler (The God's Eye View, 2016, etc.) writes sex scenes that are intense and disturbing, and the villains deserve all the pain Livia Lone can inflict.

Filled with raw power, this may be the darkest thriller of the year.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5039-3965-3

Page Count: 395

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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